A diva's wardrobe?

A collection of photos

Killerton’s long association with music is well known but you might be surprised to know that the fashion collection has another musical link with internationally celebrated diva, Pauline Joran (1870-1954).

Pauline’s daughter Paulise was the founder of the collection here.  Pauline’s clothes, as well as an interesting group of family photographs, are included but there is little to hint at her glamourous stage career.

The ‘wardrobe’ dressed The Stockwells Players, a theatre group founded by Paulise and her husband Herbert Lugg. Semi-professional community productions ran from 1935 to 1974.  Locals, students, professional actors and directors took part.

A child prodigy

Clara Pauline Joran was born into a family of talented musicians in the U.S.A. in 1870, one of three daughters of Louis Grund Joran and his pianist wife.

A musical family
Pauline with her family
A musical family

She made her concert debut as a violinist as a child, playing with her mother or their director and accompanist, Miss Hyde, and her two sisters, Loula and Elise. The family toured in America, Mexico and Hawaii during the 1880s, entertaining Kalākaua, the last king of Hawaii, en route.  

Pauline’s opera career began in Europe.  After training with the singer Margaret Blake-Alverson in 1885, the Joran family performed for the famous opera singer Adelina Patti.  

A star is born

Pauline joined the Carl Rosa opera company performing in various productions from Bizet to Sullivan.  In 1892 she sang as Lola in Cavalleria Rusticana and Beppe in L'Amico Fritz, both operas by Pietro Mascagni. She showcased all her talents as Beppe, singing and playing the violin.  The Manchester Guardian wrote that she played ‘like an angel’ surprising the audience with her excellent singing.

" Mlle. Pauline Joran is a bewitching Carmen. She sings and acts the part to the life. She is a true artiste."
- 'Fun' review, 1896

Pauline went on to sing at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, performing as Marguerite in Faust, as Bizet’s Carmen, and in many other roles.

In 1898 Joran created a new role in a new Arthur Sullivan opera. Described as ‘an original romantic musical opera’ in three acts, The Beauty Stone ran for only 50 performances at the Savoy Theatre. Pauline also sang twice for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.  

Retirement and a title

Pauline retired from the stage on her marriage to William Ernest Bush in 1899 upon which she acquired the title Baroness de Bush. Tragically, her husband was killed in a railway accident in 1903, leaving Pauline and thier young daughter Paulise, born in 1900.

Although Pauline did not fully return to the stage after her marriage, she did perform from time to time and eventually acted as coach and tutor to Eva Turner. She died in London on the 13th August 1954.

A diva’s wardrobe…

Pauline was photographed by several London society photographers, always elegantly dressed.  Having been the wife of a very wealthy man, and having worked successfully in the theatre she was probably used to being financially secure and able to buy fine clothes.

Pauline Joran in evening dress, c.1901
Pauline in an evening dress
Pauline Joran in evening dress, c.1901

The style and ornamentation of her 1901 evening dress ( pictured) is reminiscent of model gowns created by some of the leading couturiers of the early years of the twentieth century, such as Madame Paquin.  The details are lost to time. We don’t know who made this gown and have little information about her taste in fashion other than these images.

In the 1900s gowns were made to measure for each individual client, incorporating the customers personal choice as well as current fashion.  Surviving gowns vary in terms of quality of fabric, quantity of ornamentation and workmanship depending on where they were made and the occasion they were intended for.  Evening dress was not available ‘off-the-peg’.  At the top end of the market were the couturiers and court dressmakers. Some attracted important clients achieving fame for their creations.  Department stores in large towns and cities also had their own dressmaking workrooms.  Smaller towns and villages supported dressmaking establishments, from smart High Street businesses down to the local dressmaker working from home.

What would the baroness have thought of her lacy trimmed underwear being on show here? By 1910 the New York Times wrote that Pauline was clearly out of mourning for William, sporting the colour ‘fraise’ (strawberry pink) at one social occasion. Perhaps a favourite colour, as her silk undies are also pink.

A few pieces from Pauline’s wardrobe survive in the Killerton collections. These include corsets and nightdresses, evening wear, and a 1920s blue silk and silver lamé coat with chinchilla collar labelled Marshall and Snelgrove as well as a small number of full-length portrait photographs dating from about 1895 to the 1930s.

A life of style
A collection of photos
A life of style